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Perfect Oatmeal Cookies

Linda explores food facts, folklore, and fabulous recipes, one ingredient at a time.

perfect-oatmeal-cookies

They Carried an Army

The Scots began to harvest oats sometime in 1,000 B.C. The oats were formed into oatcakes, substantial and filling—hearty sustenance for the starving population.

In 1297 A.D., I have no doubt that oatcakes filled the stomach of William Wallace in the fields of Bannockburn as he battled Edward the Longshanks for independence. Had those cakes evolved to include nuts and raisins? Alas, we will never know, but by the turn of the 20th century, oatcakes had become cookies and they were labeled as a "health food." The Quaker Oats Company provided a recipe on the back panel of each container, and that is where our story really begins.

Over the years, the original recipe has been revised, but here is the original—the one that most cooks reach for.

In Samuel Johnson's dictionary, oats were defined as "eaten by people in Scotland, but fit only for horses in England."

A Scotsman's retort to this is, "That's why England has such good horses, and Scotland has such fine men!"

The Original

Ingredients

  • 1 cup (2 sticks) butter
  • 1 cup firmly packed brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 ½ cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 3 cups Quaker Oats
  • 1 cup raisins

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Cream together butter and sugars. Add eggs and vanilla; beat well.
  2. In a separate bowl, mix together flour, baking soda, cinnamon, and salt. Add dry mixture to the butter/sugar mixture and mix until well combined. Stir in oats and raisins; mix well.
  3. Drop by rounded tablespoons onto an ungreased cookie sheet. Bake 10–12 minutes or until golden brown. Cool one minute on cookie sheet then transfer to wire cooling rack. For bar cookies, bake 30–35 minutes in an ungreased 13×9 inch metal baking pan.

And, Then a Better Idea

America's Test Kitchen in Brookline, Massachusetts, was founded by Christopher Kimball 19 years ago. His philosophy was that there is a "single best way to make a dish" that leads to "nearly bulletproof" results. Mr. Kimball moved on to other endeavors two years ago, but America's Test Kitchen continues in the fine tradition of using science and methodical, precise testing to arrive at the perfect formula for well known, loved dishes.

Recently, the baking staff of ATK baked dozens of batches of oatmeal raisin cookies to find the perfect proportion of oats, flour, sugar, and eggs to create a flawless cookie that is crisp on the edges, soft and chewy (not cake-like) in the center and boasts a pronounced oat flavor.

The recipe shown below (ingredients and measurements) is taken from the ATK website, but the narrative (instructions) are my own.

  • For the proper texture, you must use rolled oats. Quick or instant oats create a gummy cookie. On the other hand, steel-cut (Irish) oats or Scottish oats are actually too much of a good thing. The groats will not soften in the relatively short baking time, and your resulting cookie will be a mouthful of grit.
  • Many recipes (look at the original) rely on butter—LOTS of butter. That's fine for a cake, where you want to achieve a fluffy, light texture but is counter-productive if you want a cookie to feel like a cookie. ATK reduced the butter to 4 tablespoons, enough so that you still have a subtle buttery flavor. Cooking oil is substituted for the remainder of the necessary fat.
  • An oatmeal cookie is about the oat flavor, not spices, so ATK reduced the cinnamon to 1/4 teaspoon. Stirring it into the melted butter will help the flavor to "bloom" without being overpowering.
  • Sugar has hygroscopic properties, meaning that it grabs and holds onto moisture. Light brown sugar does an even better job of this than white granulated sugar. But, don't assume that if a little is good, more is better. Dark brown sugar has a much higher percentage of molasses and will add dark flavors to your cookie that, although delicious, will mask the oatie taste.
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Read More From Delishably

So, now that we've discussed the key ingredients, let's take a look at the new (and improved) cookie by America's Test Kitchen.

The New Recipe

Ingredients

  • 1 cup flour
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 4 tablespoons butter
  • 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 3/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup white sugar
  • 1 large egg + 1 egg yolk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 3 cups old-fashioned rolls oats
  • 1/2 cup raisins (optional)

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
  2. Prepare two large rimmed baking sheets by lining them with parchment paper. Set aside.
  3. Combine the rolled flour, salt, and baking soda in a large mixing bowl.
  4. Place the butter in small saute pan and melt slowly over medium heat. It helps to swirl the pan occasionally. However, be careful. This is not the time to step away from the stove. Melting butter can turn from brown to burnt in seconds. As soon as you see the color begin to change, immediately remove your pan from the heat.
  5. Pour your melted butter into a large bowl, and stir in the cinnamon.
  6. Add the oil and sugars. Stir together. Add the egg, egg yolk, and vanilla. Stir until well blended.
  7. Add the flour mixture. You'll probably need to use a sturdy spoon as the mixture will be quite stiff. Finally, add the oats and (if you must) the 1/2 cup raisins. (I am allowing my bias to show here. Not a fan of the raisin).
  8. Use about 3 tablespoons of dough per cookie. Space your cookies about 2 to 3 inches apart on the prepared pan (you should get about 10 cookies on one rimmed sheet). Flatten the cookies slightly with wet hands (this keeps the dough from sticking). Each cookie should be 2 1/2 inches in diameter.
  9. Bake 10 minutes in a preheated oven. Remove from the oven and allow to sit on a hot tray 5 minutes, then remove to a cooling rack.
perfect-oatmeal-cookies

Amanda introduced herself on the blog RunningWithSpoons as a health coach, cookbook author, recipe developer, makeup junkie, and oatmeal addict. She is dedicated to proving that healthy eating doesn't have to be bland or boring, one delicious snack and dessert at a time.

She certainly does that with this breakfast bake—it's healthy, easy, and gosh it tastes just like an oatmeal cookie!

What's better than a homemade oatmeal cookie? What about an oatmeal cookie crumbled and folded into homemade vanilla ice cream? Mary Younkin (BarefeetInTheKitchen) developed this easy-peasy recipe. If you have an ice cream maker and the patience to wait for the mixture to freeze (I'm horrible at doing that), you can have a phenomenal batch of ice cream for your family.

I originally posted this recipe for the oatmeal crust, but I had to come back and add two more pictures so that you could see the entire creation. That's cranberries and cinnamon-dusted apple slices going into that pie crust.

Not only does the crust taste like a cookie, but it's also a snap to make for those who are afraid of rolling out pie pastry. The crust bakes right along with the pie filling, so I'm thinking that perhaps you could bake your favorite pumpkin pie in this crust too. That's what I'm going to do. Thanks to Lori Lange (RecipeGirl) for this great recipe and beautiful photos.

© 2018 Linda Lum

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